A Community Treasure Since 1929

The Swarthmore Woman’s Club founded the first library in Swarthmore as a children’s library in 1928. It began operation in July 1928 and was operated by The Woman’s Club and housed in the Woman’s Club, then located at
118 Park Avenue.

In April 1929, the children’s library was merged with the first Swarthmore Public Library and a Board of Trustees was formed to run the library. The library opened in space donated by Borough Hall and was located on the second floor of Borough Hall. The library was formally opened on May 17,
1929 and boasted 3,546 books. That first year, 754 adults and 401 children borrowed books from the Swarthmore Library. The library was open 13 hours per week.

On March 15, 1950, a fire destroyed 9,000 books – almost half the library’s collection. The library re-opened on May 22 in the “old Bell Building” on Harvard Avenue and began rebuilding its collection, starting with many books donated by local citizens.

By 1959, the library’s collection had grown to just over 28,000 books.
Fines that year were raised to three cents per day.

In 1962, the library had a staff of 2 1/4 adult employees and 10-12 part time student pages. That year, for the first time ever, they began relying on adult volunteers to help staff the library. Volunteers were required to work a minimum of two hours per week.

In 1967, the Friends of Swarthmore Public Library was formed. This community group helped with various activities at the library, such as sponsoring teas, workshops and lectures, and also raised money for the library. In 1989, Mary Ann Jeavons, a founding member, and a longtime volunteer, became president, and still serves in that role today.

Today, in our ninth decade, the Swarthmore Public library has a staff of six (4 full-time, 2 part-time), close to 50 volunteers and circulates over 100,000 items each year. The library is open 7 days a week, for a total of 60.5 hours. The collection includes more than 58,000 books, periodicals, movies and music. The library offers award-winning programming for children and adults. There are five computers for internet use, word-processing and database access. Unsecured wireless is also available.

Our library has the highest per capita use of any library in the Delaware County Library System. Our funding comes from individuals, the Friends of the Library, Swarthmore Borough, Delaware County and the State of Pennsylvania. Our mission is to empower our community to Read, Meet, Discover, and Grow.